ISCG Situation Report: Rohingya Refugee Crisis, Cox’s Bazar | 29 November 2018 (covering 13 – 26 November)
During the reporting period, the community continued to express unwillingness to return, representing that they would not agree to go back to Myanmar without security, basic human rights and citizenship being ensured to them. UNHCR has stated repeatedly at different levels that the repatriation of refugees should be premised “upon the free and informed decision by refugees, on an individual basis, to return”. Refugee returns should only take place at their freely expressed wish and based on relevant and reliable knowledge of the conditions within the country of origin and the area of return. UNHCR advised all partners that they could refer refugees having questions on return to the two UNHCR offices in the Kutupalong and Nayapara Registered Camps, the UNHCR protection hotline and UNHCR protection staff in the camps.
On 25 November, refugee community outreach members, refugee volunteers and protection partners participated in an array of activities to mark the start of ‘16 Days of Activism’ against gender-based violence. Refugee volunteers and refugee groups participated in rallies and marches carrying banners of 16 Days, whilst Youth Groups in Camp 15, amongst others, organised matches of their traditional game (chellong) to promote messages of peace and addressing violence in the Camps. In coordination with the GBV Subsector and the Gender in Humanitarian Action working group, protection partners actively participated, promoted and supported commemoration activities and awareness raising events across camps.
The Site Management Sector is engaging with all actors to define a holistic and joint macroplanning strategy for the months to come, the Sector is supporting the LGED in the preparedness phase of the upcoming construction of additional infrastructures funded by ADB and WB, in close partnership with SMEP. Under the auspices of the Energy and Environment Working Group, discussions on planting activities as part of the macroplanning strategy are also being held, in alignment with the policies from the Forestry Department.
To ensure awareness raising and participation by all children, a Back to Learning Campaign is being conducted in all camps, targeting students currently enrolled in learning facilities but with high levels of absenteeism.
WASH and Health Sector jointly conducted a training for some 22 field staff on acute water diarrhoea emergency response, assessment and communication.
Beginning 25 August 2017, extreme violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, drove over 700,000 Rohingya refugees across the border into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in the span of a few months (source: NPM and RRRC Family Counting). A situation of statelessness imposed over generations rendered this population acutely vulnerable, even before the severe traumas of this most recent crisis. The people and Government of Bangladesh welcomed the Rohingya refugees with resounding generosity and open borders. The speed and scale of the influx was nonetheless a challenge, and the humanitarian community stepped up its support to help mitigate a critical humanitarian emergency. The response is also designed to support the Bangladeshi communities most directly affected by the influx and improve their ability to cope with the strains of hosting a refugee population that now comprises nearly a million children, women and men who are forced to rely upon humanitarian aid for their basic needs.
Over a year later, Rohingya refugees continue to arrive in Bangladesh, though in much fewer numbers than the initial influx in late 2017. More than 14,922 new arrivals were reported from 1 January to 15 November 2018 (source: UNHCR). In Bangladesh, refugees continue to face compounding vulnerabilities. They live in congested sites that are ill-equipped to handle cyclone hazards – with alarmingly limited options for relocation or evacuation. Many refugees have expressed anxiety about their future, explaining that while they wish to return, they would not agree to do so until questions of citizenship, legal rights, and access to services, justice and restitution are addressed.